Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Invasion cycle: the review


We are finally here people! This post contains my review of the Invasion cycle, but you might want to read the summaries of Invasion, Planeshift and Apocalypse first, if you have not already done so.

Initially I wanted to split this review into two parts, first talking about whether the Invasion cycle worked as a story, and then about whether it worked as a capstone to the Weatherlight Saga. But that division is not so easily made. The story is that it is the capstone of the Weatherlight Saga. If you are not already invested in that arc large parts of these books are just a random bunch of monsters attacking a random place with random people defending. There is some characterization here, some of it is even very good, but most of it is in broad strokes, or very short. Tahngarth’s apprehension towards meeting other minotaurs rings hollow if you are not already familiar with his attitude towards his mutations seen in Rath and Storm or Mercadian Masques. And Barrin’s suicide is set up mostly by his relationship to his daughter shown in A Timefor Remembrance and the death of his wife in Prophecy.

Still, there is something to say about the writing style that has nothing to do with the rest of the saga, and some continuity concerns that have little to do with the quality of the story. So I’ll start off talking about the story itself before moving on to continuity stuff. It will just be more of a gradual development than a clear divide.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Apocalypse


Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Brom
Interior art - Brian "Chippy" Dugan, Dana Knutson, Todd Lockwood, Anson Maddocks, R.K. Post, Mark Tedin & Anthony Waters.
First released in June 2001

SUMMARY
We open up on Gerrard and Urza kneeling in front of Yawgmoth in the Ninth Sphere, which has been formed into an arena. Yawgmoth tells the two to fight for their greatest desire: the resurrection of Hanna and the chance to study under Yawgmoth respectively. So they do. For almost half the book. Urza has a number of near-wins, but each time Yawgmoth comes up with a reason why it doesn't count. During the fight Gerrard learns to manipulate the flowstone all around him and eventually he manages to decapitate Urza. Yawgmoth then blesses Gerrard with a tenfold increase in strength, endurance, intelligence and will. But Gerrard had shaken off the command of Yawgmoth during the battle, and when it looks like Hanna comes forward to collect Urza's head, he strikes her with his halberd instead, correctly guessing that the Hanna-simulacrum would be where Yawgmoth hid his essence. Before he can follow it up with a killing blow Yawgmoth ejects him from Phyrexia, back to the Stronghold.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Planeshift


Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Brom
Back cover art - Donato Giancola
Interior art - Brian "Chippy" Dugan, Dana Knutson, Todd Lockwood, Anson Maddocks, R.K. Post, Mark Tedin & Anthony Waters.
First released in February 2001

SUMMARY
We pick up directly where the last book left. Everyone is still at Koilos as the Rathi Overlay starts dumping hordes upon hordes of invaders all around. The coalition army braces itself for the oncoming wave, but then the nine titans suddenly planeswalk away, transporting the troops to various positions across the globe. The Weatherlight and the metathran army end up on Urborg, where Crovax has set up shop (after eating Tsabo Tavoc for her failure). Eladamri and his half of the army are taken to Keld, where the Skyshroud forest has just materialized.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Invasion


Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Erik Peterson
Back cover art - Michael Sutfin
Interior art - Brian "Chippy" Dugan, Dana Knutson, Todd Lockwood, Anson Maddocks, R.K. Post, Mark Tedin & Anthony Waters.
First released in October 2000.

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm doing things a little differently for the Invasion cycle. Today I'll put up just the summary, trivia and continuity references for Invasion. Tomorrow you'll get the same for Planeshift, and next week for Apocalypse. Next week I'll also do a separate post with a review and continuity/timeline discussion for the entire trilogy.  They reason for this is that this trilogy is really just one big story, written by the same person. As such a regular review of Invasion wouldn't be able to go into a whole lot of plotlines that don't wrap up until later in the trilogy, while any comments on the writing style in the next two reviews would just go "Wel... what I said last time still counts".

SUMMARY
We open up on the Weatherlight desperately trying to get to Benalia, but their planeswalking is disrupted by three massive Phyrexian portals in the sky. Eventually they manage to close them by going through them to Rath and blowing the portal generation ships up from the other side. But when they finally land in Benalia City to warn the people there of the invasion they get chucked into jail for Gerrard's desertion, alongside a mysterious Blind Seer who was preaching doom at the Weatherlight's landing spot. Benalia is utterly Routed by the Phyrexian commander Tsabo Tavoc while the crew escapes. They head of to a prison colony and recruit the prisoners there for their crew, and face Tsabo again, as she had stowed away in the ship. Again they escape, but Hanna ends up infected by the Phyrexian plague.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Quick update!

Hi everyone!

As you probably noticed, things have been pretty quiet on the blog this month. What a tease I am, dropping of the map so close to the conclusion of the entire Weatherlight Saga! Don't worry, I have not lost interest in the project! The entire Invasion cycle has been read, and I've already got all my notes in order. All that remains for me to do is turning it from a pile of cliff notes into a text that's actually readable. It's just been a really busy month for me. I finished the last essay and presentation of my traineeship and am now a certified Record Manager (think archivist, but with computers and digital files instead of paper and filing cabinets) and I'm currently on a Prince2 management course. Oh and, you know, I've got my regular job in addition to all that. Which is eating into my Magic time as well. Oh, the joys of adult life...

In addition to that, I've also been delayed because I'm actually writing all three reviews of the Invasion cycle at the same time. Which brings me to the other thing I wanted to talk about: I'm going to use a slightly different format than usual for the Invasion cycle. You see, this cycle is, surprisingly enough, the first time we cover a trilogy that really is just one long story. We've done the Ice Age cycle a while ago, and Greensleeves a loooooooooooooong time ago, but in both cases it's more like one story with two sequels. Here though, the story just barrels on with only minor breathers between books. As such my reviews were ending up a bit skewed. In the Invasion review I was constantly saying "Well, I'd love to talk about this character/this plotline/etc, but let's see how things turn out in the next novels first", while in the Apocalypse one the phrase "what I said last time still applies" was used in overabundance. As that wouldn't make for the best reading, I decided that instead I'll first do three posts covering just the summary, trivia and continuity references of the individual books. Then I'll do a fourth post with the review, continuity problems and timeline sections.


So, that's why it's been very slow going here. But things are nearing completion (compleation?) now, so the Invasion and Planeshift summaries should be going up this weekend, with Apocalypse and the cycle-wide review following the week after that! Hope you will all forgive me for the delay and stick with me a little while longer!

If you are dying for some Magic storyline stuff, I've put up a post with a quick look at the Invasion promo comic that appeared in TopDeck. You can find it just below this one, or by following this link. And while I'm sure most of you will already have listened to it by now, I also want to plug the Magic Story Podcast that went up on the mothership a week ago. In it we got the reveal that the Mending happened 60 years prior to the current story, which for me was probably the biggest bombshell to come from the Magic storyline in years! Which might sound like I'm slamming the regular stories, but is really just showing my own idiosyncrasies. I had expected that after Future Sight I would have to break my timeline into two, one pre-Mending and one post-Mending, but this might just enable me to integrate the two! Obviously that's still a good long while away, but it's exciting to me nonetheless!

Thank you for still sticking with me, and hopefully I'll see you all this weekend for the new, proper, review!

Invasion promo comic

After Mercadian Masques, Nemesis and Prophecy, Invasion was the last Kev Walker comic published before TopDeck was discontinued. Like all its predecessors it is very well drawn, but only contains the very start of a story. The Weatherlight finds Phyrexians, goes to Rath to fight them at the source, is overwhelmed but escapes... buy the book to find out what happens next!


  

If you don't feel like opening all these pictures separately, you can also go over to www.MagicInvasion.com to find a (barely) animated version. It's under "Invasion" and then "Story". We'll get back to that website after I've covered the book trilogy though.

Actually, this comic deviates a bit more from the novel then the previous ones. There the Weatherlight goes to Rath with a much clearer goal in mind: to destroy the Phyrexian portal ships, which only exist on that side. On Dominaria the portals just manifest as big gaps in the air. (Despite what you might have seen on the cards, which clearly show the portal ships on Dominaria as well.)


And while this comic ends with Benalia well and truly Routed as the Weatherlight arrives, in the novel they actually arrive before the Phyrexians but get thrown in jail because Gerrard is seen as a dirty stinking deserter, with Benalia City being overrun as the crew sits in their cells.

As always I'm going to say that no matter how pretty it is, the comic is the non-canonical version of the story, with the novel being the one that counts. But it is a very good way of generating excitement, that's for sure!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Of Trolls and Chinese Whispers

So, I’m currently reading Apocalypse for the blog, and I was struck by its dedication.
“To Jaya, Dragontrainer, and all the fans”
For those who don’t know, Jaya and Dragontrainer were posters on Phyrexia.com, a website of old especially focused on the storyline. And when I say old, I mean its front page still wishes us a happy 2009. Its continuity section and forum have been… a bit of a mixed blessing for the storyline community really. On the one hand, it was crucial in keeping old information and stories in circulation long after the comics and magazines they originated in ceased publication, and it was visited by several Magic authors over the years who revealed behind the scenes info there. On the other hand, it suffered from a lack of critical reading and citation. Fan theories got presented as fact a bit too often for my tastes.

Today, I want to show you how easily the entire storyline community got duped due to a lack of annotations and the obscurity of some original sources.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Myths of Magic


The Myths of Magic
Editor - Jess Lebow
Cover Art - Michael Sutfin
Released June 2000

So, when I did The Colors of Magic I said that I was going to save the future anthologies until after the Weatherlight Saga was done, but then I realized that there was only one anthology published during the Saga, and that it introduces a minor character that will be featured in Invasion block. So although we all really want to get to Invasion, it really makes more sense to cover this book first.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Thran


Writer - J. Robert King
Cover art - Gary Riddell
First released in December 1999

SUMMARY
The book opens on the start of the Thran-Phyrexian war. An alliance of several Thran city states, dwarves, elves, minotaurs and other races face of against Halcyon, the capitol of the Thran empire, led by Yawgmoth. Then we flashback to 9 years earlier, when the empire is at the pinnacle of its power. It's at peace after a civil war that ousted a faction of eugenicists, and a bright new age seems to be dawning due to the artifact wonders created by a man named Glacian. But not everything is as lovely as it seems: underneath Halcyon lie the Caves of the Damned, where the undesirables are sent and where disease is rampant. One day one of these Untouchables, a man named Gix, crawls up into the city, stabs Glacian with a powerstone and infects him with the disease. As the doctors' spells only make things worse, Glacian's wife Rebbec only sees one option and recalls Yawgmoth, the exiled leader of the eugenicists.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Barrin's Journal (aka Prophecy online)


Writer - Scott McGough

SUMMARY
Eh... Barrin writes a note about going to Jamuraa.

That's it.

Perhaps I should figure out a new format for these mini-reviews...

REVIEW, TRIVIA, CONTINUITY & TIMELINE
Another expansion set, another small flavor tidbit for the website. You can find it here, on the archived Prophecy product page. Like the Nemesis online story it is too short to do a proper review of it. It looks like a random note Barrin could have written, so... it succeeds in what it sets out to do, I guess?

That said, I do like this "story", as it hits on a lot of things in a very short space. It builds up the Invasion and it references back to the way Urza let Gatha do his thing in Keld back in Bloodlines. Furthermore, it gives a minimal amount of flavor to some of the main features of the Prophecy expansion that don't even get a mention in the novel. Barrin mentions wanting to study Rhystic magic, and that the Avatars (which were the face of the set) are beings that manifest at the site of "particularly intense battles". It's not much, but it is better than nothing.


As I noted in the Nemesis review while discussing Lin Sivvi/Liin Sivi's name, it seems that the continuity department and Magic R&D have started drifting away from each other at this point. The novels appear to be written with only an outline of the set in mind, while these short stories are written after the set's completion, and thus have a better idea of what to reference. You saw this in the Nemesis online story as well, as it mentioned the Laccolith and the Parallax cards, which were prominent in the set but absent from the novel. We'll see this escalate over time, until Onslaught block has novels that have nothing to do with what is going on in the sets, with the story that was shown on the cards only being explained on website articles.

There isn't much to say about continuity and the timeline here. The journal was clearly written in 4205, between Barrin's appearances in A Time for Remembrance and Prophecy. Other than the already mentioned reference to Bloodlines there isn't much continuity, and even that reference is pretty vague. I do like the little map Barrin drew, as it gives us a teensy bit more info on this region of Jamuraa, like the location of Arsenal City. The drawings around the map seem to be intended as visual clues for Rhystic magic. The oily squiggles labelled "black" appear on Rhystic Syphon and Rhystic Tutor, while the crystaline stuff labelled "white" look like the base of Rhystic Shield, and a bit like Glittering Lynx.


Clearly the Invasion is almost upon us. But before that, we need to go back to the very beginning. It is time to finally learn the origin of Yawgmoth and the fall of the Thran!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Prophecy


Writer - Vance Moore
Cover art - Brom
First released in July 2000

SUMMARY
A faction of Keld led by Latulla has gotten it into their heads that the end times are coming and have invaded north-west Jamuraa (don't worry, that's not the bit we saw in Mirage that we actually care about, just their neighbors), since they believe that it is their ancestral homeland. A Jamuraan soldier called Haddad is captured and enslaved by the Keldons, and through him we learn a lot about Keldon culture and religion. This is interspersed with scenes of Barrin, Rayne and Teferi mustering the Jamuraan defenses.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Prophecy promo comic

Okay, so... we've reached the third Kev Walker promo comic and I've officially run out of things to say about them. They are pretty, it's cool that they did these things back in the day, it's an adaptation of a scene from the novel but different enough that you can't consider it canonical... Keldons apparently look like Lobo sometimes.




This is what it's like being a completist. Sometimes there are things you just can't say anything interesting about, but you got to have them because they are part of whatever it is you collect.

I'll try to get the review of the actual novel up by Tuesday. At least there is actually something to talk about there!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Nemesis Online


SUMMARY
Ehm... this story is available online and it is less than a 1000 words long, so you're really better of just reading it, but if you insist on a summary...

Some Rathi rebels are fighting Stronghold forces and winning. But then a Laccolith Titan shows up and they start losing. But then a Parallax Wave happens and the Stronghold forces are swept away.

REVIEW
It's fine.

What, you want more? We are entering an age now where pretty much all of the story is put into the book line. Any other storyline source that get produced up until... jeez, the Kamigawa vignettes I guess, are really just fluffed up commercials for the books. Their writing is generally okay, but their size means there really isn't much to review. There simply isn't space to do anything special.

TRIVIA

  • Skyshroud Elves thank Gaea. Which makes sense, as the Art of Rath book revealed Skyshroud originally drifted around the seas of Dominaria before it was scooped up and brought to Rath.
  • "The Parallax" never came up in Nemesis, or anywhere else as far as I know. I'm guessing it is a side-effect of the coming Rathi overlay.

TIMELINE

Okay, here we actually do have something to discuss!

The elves talk as if Eladamri is still leading the rebellion, which suggest it happens during the Nemesis novel. Yet that seems unlikely. In that book it is a huge plot point that Crovax, despite being the strongest competitor for the title of Evincar otherwise, failed to score a victory against the rebels. If his forces had a second battle in which he almost won, only to lose his troops to the Parallax, that would most certainly have come up.

So I would say that the only explanation for this is that story takes place during Nemesis's epilogue, or shortly afterwards: before news of Eladamri's disappearance becomes widespread, but after Crovax is named evincar and is campaigning to secure his reign. This would also allow us to tie the Parallax to the Rathi overlay, since the overlay doesn't begin until the last few pages of the book.

Aaaaaaand... that's it! You've been warned, there will be more of these mini reviews in the future. Next up is the Prophecy promo comic, but after that it is back to a proper book! (Or, well, proper... it's still Prophecy...)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Nemesis


Writer - Paul B. Thompson
Cover art - Mark Zug
Released February 2000

SUMMARY
When the Weatherlight escaped Rath it left two crewmen behind: Crovax and Ertai. Ertai ended up on board skyship Predator, a prisoner of Greven il-Vec. It turns out that Crovax, already turned into a vampire, was brought to Phyrexia and further enhanced. He was then send to Phyrexia to be its new evincar, as Volrath had left to go star in Mercadian Masques. However, while a Phyrexian priest called Kirril worked on Crovax, an inner circle member called Abcal-Dro has the daughter of Eladamri, Avila, killed and used her body to create Belbe. Belbe is implanted with a device that allows Yawgmoth to see through her and is then also send to Rath as an emissary, to oversee the struggle for who becomes the new evincar. Abcal-Dro believes survival of the fittest is the best method of selecting a new ruler.


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Nemesis promo comic

Another quick post, covering the next promotional comic. I've included the pictures below, but following this link to a thread on MTGSally, where it was first shared by KavuMonarch, is probably more convenient.

If you are really in dire need of a review: Again, the art is fantastic. Very dynamic, amazingly detailed. Not a single bad thing to say about it. There writing is fine, but again it is hard to really critique it when it is just a few scenes from a novel stitched together to wet your appetite. Other than that... I dunno. You can read my comments on the Mercadian Masques promo comic again. Everything I said there applies to this comic as well. The only difference is that this doesn't cover a specific scene, but combines a few small parts of various chapters. This is still an adaptation that varies from the novel version though, and as such shouldn't be considered canon. No matter how pretty it looks.



I hope this comic has made you interested in the novel. The review will be up next weekend!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Mercadian Masques


Writer - Francis Lebaron
Cover artist - Kev Walker
Released September 1999

SUMMARY
We start where Rath and Storm left off: the Weatherlight just went through the planar portal, only to crash on a farm on an unfamiliar plane. They immediately get mistaken for Ramos, a local deity who also famously crashed from the sky after traveling from another plane, and thus the crew is immediately in trouble. The ship, with Orim still on it, is taken by the Cho-Arrim forest dwellers, while most of the crew is arrested by the Mercadians and taken to their inverted mountain city.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Mercadian Masques promo comic

After the demise of The Duelist Wizards was supposed to go full digital, yet somehow ended up publishing magazines for a while longer. First there was "Duelist presents MAGIC: the Gathering Mercadian Masques" (which going by the text next to its barcode I would just call The Duelist #42, but neither the MTGSalvation Wiki, nor Magic Librarities, nor Wikipedia mention it), then 15 issues of Top Deck. All of these are entirely skippable for those reading through the storyline canon, but there is one feature that I wanted to talk about anyway: the promotional comics for the novel line.

For all sets of Masques block and Invasion Kev Walker took a scene from the novels and adapted those to comic form. There are a bunch of differences between the original scenes and the comics, and obviously the novels trump their adaptations, so I don't count these as canonical. However, they are pretty awesome, and fairly well known after they were shared on MTGSalvation a few years back (9 years still counts as a few. Shut up.)  So they are worth a quick look!